By BEV JORDAN
Red tape is causing residents and businesses to try to repair riverbank damage along with the Hawkesbury River major problems six months after the floodwater subsided leaving damage and erosion in its wake.
Under current planning procedures, landowners have to submit a Development Application to the local council before tackling repairs which involve several reports at considerable cost.
Hawkesbury City Council is calling for the State Government to establish a streamlined approval process to enable repairs to riverbanks to go ahead as soon as possible.
The Mayor Patrick Conolly is seeking a meeting with NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro to discuss the issue saying delays in establishing such a process is leading to hardship among affected residents and has also resulted in unauthorised works being carried out to properties and the river. Council is aware of 35 properties that have undertaken works without approvals.
Resident Jane Shelton from Cornwallis told ABC radio on Wednesday (September 22nd) that submitting a Development Application for the repair work would cost about $50,000 for the reports needed and would take time.
“The irony is the repairs will cost us about $20,000 and take 10 days and we have (tradesmen) sitting here waiting to do it,” she said. The big fear for residents is that another flood will happen before approved repair works can go ahead.
Mr Connolly said the March floods caused significant damage to riverbanks, affecting hundreds of properties along the Hawkesbury River in both Hawkesbury and The Hills Local Government Areas. He said the damage has led to unstable riverbanks close to homes and rural buildings, putting them at risk of further damage and making them vulnerable to future flood events.
In the aftermath of the floods, the State Government undertook substantial studies of the damage to the riverbanks to assist in the creation of a streamlined design and approval process for landowners to undertake necessary repairs on their properties.
Council says the State Government has budgeted $18 million to employ case managers across affected NSW LGAs to help speed up the application process and assist in the recovery and restoration, but this has also not yet taken place.
Mr Conolly said under current legislation council’s hands were tied.
“Until this streamlined approval process is put in place, all of the normal requirements for the application and assessment of development applications for riverbank repairs still apply, and in some cases, this will require landowners spending tens of thousands of dollars on reports, and waiting for a full assessment by Councils.
Council feels this is fundamentally unfair and not what we were led to believe would eventuate. Residents along the river have already suffered enough and shouldn’t be left in limbo facing further financial hardship while the state government dithers.
Delays and the associated costs have resulted in unapproved works being carried out by landowners at various locations, putting the health of the river at risk. There are also concerns that the works are not being carried out according to best-practice design principles and may be at risk from failure – occasioning further property damage.”
Council has not received any development applications but has held 10 pre-lodgement meetings.